Friday, August 31, 2012

Happy Friday!

Welcome to Friday!  I hope you had a lovely first week back to school/continuation of your summer vacation/not too stressful week at work!  This week, I will only be answering the questions posed by Ginger @ Greads (TGIF) and Melissa @ i swim for oceans (Let's Talk).  Alas, this will be the last TGIF for a while.  I will certainly miss it, but I completely understand Ginger's reasons for discontinuing it for the time being.  Any way, let's get into it!

Choose Your Next Read: How do you go about choosing what you read next?  Do you have a schedule you follow or do you read whatever makes you happy at the moment?

After I'm done reading a book, then I choose (almost immediately) what I'm going to read next.  Even if I already have three or four other books going at the same time.  I try to do it this way because I'm never sure what a book is going to do to me by the time I turn to that last page.  I could be emotionally drained and I'll need to read something that is more uplifting in order to bounce back.  I might not be affected at all and in that case, it's a mystery even to me what I will read next.  For example, one of the books I'm currently reading  is 'Silence of the Lambs' by Thomas Harris.  It's for sure a horror novel, but I haven't yet reached a frightening part, though certain things have already reached a level of creepy for me... I'm probably going to have to read something lighter like, 'My Name is Memory' by Ann Brashares.

Do you like issue books?  Why or why not.

I think I prefer issue books.  Well, the ones that are well-written, any way.  I tend to gravitate towards these types of books whenever possible because they aren't pristine.  They're about broken people as opposed to the books where the description in the inside flap says, "So-and-so was the ideal/perfect/perfectly ordinary ."  I just think that issue books have so many options as to where they can go because they typically deal with broken and often desperate characters.  In books with perfect characters, there are really only one direction they can go: down. It's the only option for them if the story is to remain somewhat interesting.

Thank you for stopping by my blog today!  I hope you all enjoy your weekends!  I know I'm definitely going to enjoy mine.  Tomorrow, I pack up the rest of my things and then Sunday, I'm moving into my dorm for the year!  I'm very excited to begin my first year of college!  That being said, though I don't have much of a schedule for posting reviews here, I will be even more unpredictable in the coming months because I will need to get in the swing of balancing my time like a normal person.  I will not make any promises to you until I can be sure that I can keep them. Just know that I'll still be around and I'll pop up every once in a while.

Thanks for Reading!


Monday, August 27, 2012

A Review of 'The Patron Saint of Butterflies' by Cecilia Galante

"Agnes and Honey have always been different, but the older they get, the more they are growing apart.  Born into Mount Blessing, a religious commune with stringent rules and guarded secrets, the girls are complete opposites of each other.  While Agnes has made it her life's purpose to become a saint, Honey wants to her as far away from the commune as possible.  When Agnes's grandmother Nana Pete unexpectedly visits, she discovers one of the commune's most sinister secrets.  Fearing for their safety, Nana Pete takes the girls and flees Mount Blessing.

During their journey from the commune toward what Honey hopes will be a normal life, the girls test the bonds of their lifelong friendship, and Agnes struggles to hang on to the life she had.  Only when the biggest-- and most dangerous-- lie is finally unearthed does Agnes realize she must find the courage to make her own future.

This stunning debut novel, inspired by the author's own experiences, is a powerful tale of faith, friendship, and the true meaning of love."

After finishing this book, I am a little bit speechless.  It's been a while since I read a book that I can relate to so well and yet still get so angry at.  It was really difficult to make a choice regarding which "side" I was on: Honey's or Agnes's.  I hated how far-gone Agnes was, delving into the extremes of Christianity.  Whenever someone tried to talk a little sense (and by that, I do not mean convert) into her, she shut her ears and refused to listen, following the antics of a seven-year-old.  I have no problem reading books about religion, but this was one book that got my heart racing, I was so scared.  The word that comes to mind when I think of Mount Blessing is, "cult."  One person was telling everyone at the commune how to think. It was absolutely frightening for me to read about this and the author did such a great job of going into detail and not holding anything back.

I didn't completely agree with Honey either, though I could relate more to her than I could to Agnes.  For a while, it was really hard to tell whether or not she actually believed in God, the way she was talking to Agnes.  I've come to the conclusion that she is just a less extreme Christian.  She was enjoying herself immensely when they went to a Baptist service.  I appreciated her attempts to reverse Agnes's brainwashing (though, maybe instead of "brainwashing," we could say "upbringing").

I will also say that I loved that this Young Adult book did not contain a love triangle.  Finally!  It's absolutely possible!  This made this book quite refreshing, even if it is about four years old.

Nana Pete was such a powerful character.  I admire her to the ends of the earth for bringing her grandchildren out of the situation they were in.  It was very gutsy to take her grandchildren away from their parents without their permission (even then permission of one of her grandchildren) and just leave.

The most powerful thing in this book, in my opinion, is that you do not have to lead a perfect life in order to follow God or whomever you believe in.  You don't have to be as extreme as Agnes was.  You can still live a free life.  I think you could even go so far as to say you need only be a decent human being.  You do not have to do this in the name of a higher power, but if that helps you, that's fine.  You do not need to prove your goodness.  If you are good, you are good.  Any higher power will be able to see this.

Overall, this book was very eye-opening and it was nice to get two perspectives.  I think just about everything about this book worked for this story.  It's a beautiful debut novel by Cecilia Galante.

I give 'The Patron Saint of Butterflies':
Thanks for Reading!


Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Memes!

Hello Everyone!  Welcome to Friday on the Blogosphere where many choose to answer the questions posed by Parajunkee, Melissa @ i swim for oceans, Jennifer @ Crazy-for-Books, and Ginger @ GReads.  Feel free to click the links below and join in on the fun for yourself!

Worst cover?  What is the worst cover of a book that you've read and loved?

This one is really difficult to answer because part of how I choose the books I read is the cover.  But there is one particular book that I didn't exactly choose to read of my own accord where I thought that the cover was atrocious:
I mean, come on.  The 'A' in 'The Scarlet Letter' is very important, but that's not all that there is to this book.  There are about a million covers for 'The Scarlet Letter' and this is among the worst.  It's just so boring...

What are your top three favorite series of all time and why?

1. The Harry Potter Series-- I grew up with Harry Potter and yet, they've proven to be timeless.  The books are filled with characters that people want to strive to live as.  I don't mean walking around like a witch or a wizard necessarily, but just the way they are as a person.  

2. A Series of Unfortunate Events-- Even though they are, at times, frustrating because of the way the adults act, the writing is just so clever and the stories are complete with a mystery that keeps you wondering until the very end.

3. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants-- I think this one is the most relate-able of the series.  The things these girls go through are (mostly) true to life which allows you to really care for the characters.  It's beautiful!

What is your favorite thing about blogging?

I like having an outlet to tell people what I think.  I'm not exactly the most eloquent speaker on the face of the earth.  When someone asks me in person what they should read next, I can shoot titles at them rapid fire, but when it comes to telling that person what they're actually about and what I thought was awesome, it feels like I need to tell them everything and at the same time that I can't.  Essentially, it all comes out in a garbled mess.  So writing down my thoughts about books makes me appear more well-spoken than I am in real life.  That's one of my most favorite things about blogging, among a bazillion other things.

Back To School Reading: Which books would you like to see in today's high school literature classrooms?

I'm happy to say that I will eventually have some kind of control over what will be read in today's high school literature classrooms, if all goes well.  :)

Thank you very much for taking the time to stop by my blog today!  If you'd like, feel free to leave your own web address below and I'll try my best to come by for a visit this weekend!

Thanks for Reading!


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Review of 'Crossed' by Ally Condie

"Rules are different outside the Society.

Chasing down an uncertain future, Cassia makes her way to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky-- taken by the Society to his sure death-- only to find that he has escaped into the majestic, but treacherous, canyons.  On this wild frontier are glimmers of a different life and the enthralling promise of rebellion.  But even as Cassia sacrifices everything to reunite with Ky, ingenious surprises from Xander may change the game once again.

Narrated from both Cassia's and Ky's points of view, this hotly anticipated sequel to Matched will take them both to the edge of Society, where nothing is as expected and crosses and double crosses make their paths more twisted than ever."

It took a little longer for me to get into 'Crossed' than it did for me to get into 'Matched.'  The beginning was interesting because first of all, we are reunited with Cassia and Ky.  That's really nice because they were great characters in 'Matched.'  Now they're in a completely different setting.  They're in a completely different place than the Society.

There was a lot of running and walking around in this book.  This is what bothered me the most about this book.  Ky and Cassia (along with Eli, Indie, and a couple other characters) were walking around in search of each other and then the Rising.  I didn't feel like a lot of character development happened in this part and that would have been a perfect time for this to happen.  It's true, these characters have a number of choices that they need to make, but for me, it still feels like the characters are going about making these decisions in a way that they would have had they been forced to make them in the beginning of the book.  Cassia was still clinging to Ky and wanting nothing more than to touch him.  This is definitely part of being love, but in this case, it just felt clingy... and given the situation where they could be killed or discovered at any moment, it just didn't feel right.

I was also disappointed at the lack of The Rising.  There was a lot of talking about it, but it didn't really make an appearance until the last quarter or third of the book.  On one hand, I really wish that they had talked about it more, but on the other, I'm really excited to read about The Rising in action in the last installment of this trilogy.

I liked that we are able to learn a little more about Ky's history.  He's such a closed book that even the smallest glimpses were interesting to read about.  I look forward to piecing it all together in the next book.

Some of the individual characters were pretty interesting to read about.  I'm very interested in hearing more about Indie, the girl who was kicked out of the Society for attempting to escape to the ocean.  Eli, because he's so young, I still don't really know why he was exiled from the Society.  I know that whatever happened, it was by his own hand that he was reclassified.  I think Eli is the character that interests me the most.  I really do hope we hear more about him in the next book.

Overall, I wasn't as impressed with 'Crossed' as I was with 'Matched,' but there are several things in this book that are essential to know for the next book that it is a necessary read for this trilogy.

I give 'Crossed':
Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Review of 'Running with Scissors' by Augusten Burroughs

"Running with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus.  So at the age of twelve, Burroughs found himself amidst Victorian squalor living with the doctor's bizarre family, and befriending a pedophile who resided in the backyard shed.  The story of an outlaw childhood where rules were unheard of, and the Christmas tree stayed up all year-round, where Valium was consumed like candy, and if things got dull, an electroshock-therapy machine could provide entertainment.  The funny, harrowing, and bestselling account of an ordinary boy's survival under the most extraordinary circumstances."

'Running with Scissors' is one of those books that has always hovered in the foreground of my life, but I had never thought to pick it up and read it until now.

It's certainly a strange book and not meant for younger readers-- there is a ton of swearing and sex scenes.  If these things don't particularly bother you in a book, then it could very well be worth a shot.

The amount of disorder in this book was staggering.  I'm not referring to Augusten Burroughs' writing style, but just the life he led in his earlier years.  It would definitely take a strong person to deal with the environment Augusten was put in.  I don't believe that I could ever handle that life the way he did.  Everything was dirty all the time and there were essentially no rules.  The people living in Dr. Finch's house were not expected to go to school, they could live with whomever they pleased, take new parents, sleep with drastically older lovers... there was no structure.  With this fact alone, everyone who sits down with this is in for a very interesting read.

It was extremely helpful that Burroughs kept everything in a roughly linear order.  It was very easy to tell what part of his story was "the present time" and when he was going off on a tangent in order to make something clearer for the reader.

It was nice to be able to see how Burroughs' younger self developed as years passed.  Through him, we could see the people around him develop.  I never expected Natalie to do as well in life as she did.  She was definitely a strong personality, but I could never truly tell how serious she was about the things that I consider worthwhile (such as education).

I would have loved to have learned more about Augusten's mother.  For me, she was one of the more intriguing people because of the poised way in which she carried herself.  She was a classy lady that sometimes lapsed into psychotic episodes.  The scariest part was when her episodes reared their ugly head more violently and more often.

Even more interesting than Augusten's mother was the family dynamic between the Finch's.  Agnes and Dr. Finch were the center of the family, but it seemed to be the kids who were essentially in control.  It was a very different experience in reading, that's for certain.

I liked Burroughs' writing style.  It strikes a balance between judgmental and subjective-- he offers up his opinion on the situations he's in and the ones he's not and speaks honestly and bluntly.  It's very nice to read this kind of style, but also very startling at times.

Overall, 'Running With Scissors' is a memoir that has and will continue to intrigue readers everywhere.  It's a very striking and honest memoir.  It should not be read by those who are bothered by sex or swearing.  Because there are quite a few parts like this.

I give 'Running With Scissors':
Thanks for Reading!


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Happy Friday (On Saturday)!

Welcome to Friday Memes on Saturday!  TGIF, The Blog Hop, Let's Talk, and Follow Friday are brought to you by Ginger @ GReads, Jennifer @ Crazy for Books, Melissa @ i swim for oceans, and Parajunkee respectfully.  Feel free to follow the links I provide you so that you may link up with all sorts of fine people!  Let's get started.

Unexpected Books: Which books did you have reservations about reading, but ended up loving once you did?

I tend to have reservations when it comes to new books that people are just raving about in the social circles outside the internet and on the blogosphere.  Maybe I'm just waiting for a second opinion or I don't particularly like being apart of a gushing crowd before I've read the book.  Wither by Lauren DeStefano was one of those books for me.  I found it at Half-Price Books months after it came out and the hype for it had dropped significantlyand I decided, "Why not?"  So that's when I picked it up and found that I was absolutely enthralled by this story.  This is the most recent title that comes to mind.

Who is your go-to author when you're in a reading rut?

I think it's between J.K. Rowling, Gabrielle Zevin, Markus Zusak, and John Green.  It all depends on what kind of mood I'm in at the time.

Who are your top literary crushes and why?

Hermione Granger: She is such a strong character-- a role model to women everywhere and of all ages.  She knocks down walls that were created for seemingly no reason at all.  She is loyal, very clever, and she has a certain tenacity that I just love.

Augustus Waters: He's so young (well, maybe not quite that young), but already he has this great insight on life because of what he's had to face with his sickness.  He decided that his disease would not stop him from living and being a great human being.  He was a beautiful boyfriend to Hazel.  He tried so hard to be strong for her and her failing lungs and it was very difficult to see him be brought to his knees when his disease returned stronger than ever.  There will never be another character like Augustus Waters.

What would you do if you were to start your blog again from scratch?

There isn't a lot that I would want to do from the beginning.  I'd like to have had a better idea of what I wanted to do on this blog from the beginning, but I don't even think I'd want to do that because it took some time to decide that yes, I really wanted this blog to be a book blog.  I needed that time to play around with my options and then make the jump and transition this blog from there.  So really, I wouldn't change a thing.

Thank you very much for stopping by!  If you'd like for me to visit your blog, leave your web address below and I'll try my best to make my way over to you this weekend!

Thanks for Reading!


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Review of 'The Wonder Singer' by George Rabasa

"For the past few months, Mark Lockwood has been at work on a ghostwriting assignment beyond his dreams.  To prepare her autobiography, he has been interviewing the internationally renowned diva Mercè Casals.  When the Señora dies unexpectedly in her elegant scented bath, she suddenly becomes a hot property and a celebrity biographer arrives to take the project over.  To save his own future, Lockwood steals the tapes, liberates the Señora's aging husband, and sets out to write the Diva's story on the run.

The Wonder Singer is an operatic literary caper about one grandly beautiful life and one young writer's manic attempt to expand his world by capturing it."

It's a very intriguing novel.  For me, this was just about the diva Mercè Casals rather than Mercè Casals and the other characters involved.  I was interested in Lockwood's personal story up until the end when everything started working out and there was no danger any more.

For the first three quarters of Lockwood's story, it was really interesting because he was interviewing this retired opera star when she dies in the classiest and most awkward places ever-- her very own bathtub.  All of a sudden, the diva becomes this hot piece of real estate for ghost writers everywhere, especially for Lockwood, who had begun this process long before her death, and for Lockwood's rival, Mr. Baylor.  Lockwood has to go into hiding in order to write this book around the clock.  That's what I found most exciting about Lockwood's story.  But after the book was finished, it felt like there was no reason for the book to continue.  After the manuscript is submitted, we are left to catch up with Lockwood and his crumbling marriage.  But there is one huge problem that relates to why I had trouble staying interested in Lockwood's story at the end:

The characters weren't nearly developed enough.

Readers don't have nearly enough time to spend with Lockwood, Perla, Claire, Nolan, etc.  We know who they are as far as characterization goes, but it's difficult to tell who they are as people.  What makes them tick?  What would devastate these characters the most?  What shaped them into the characters that we read about in this book?  I couldn't tell you.

My favorite parts were the excerpts of Mercè Casals' biography.  These were absolutely the most developed parts of the book.  I felt that I really knew who this character was.  I knew where she came from and how she became the character I was reading about.  She was the most three dimensional character of them all.

Another thing that I really like is the cover.  It's just so beautiful.  Simple, yes, but beautiful.

I would recommend this book to anyone who does not mind underdeveloped characters and who enjoys music and Spanish culture.  I give 'The Wonder Singer':
Thanks for Reading!